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Pala Band of Mission Indians files lawsuit against opioid manufacturers, distributors

Posted: 11:50 AM, Dec 03, 2018
Updated: 2018-12-04 01:40:46Z
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(KGTV) - The Pala Band of Mission Indians announced the filing of a federal lawsuit Monday against companies who manufacture and distribute opioids.

The Pala Band filed the suit on Nov. 26 in hopes of holding the pharmaceutical companies “accountable for the devastating effects prescription opioids have had on the tribe.”

In a press release, Pala Tribal Chairman Robert Smith said, “The opioid epidemic has had devastating impacts on our tribe. Big Pharma’s aggressive promotion of OxyContin and other prescription opiates have caused increasing incidences of addiction, disability and family dysfunction.”

The lawsuit accuses companies who manufacture, market and distribute opioids of carrying out “a scheme to make doctors and patients believe that prescription opioids were safe, non-addictive, and could be used without long-term effects. That effort, coupled with their failure to track orders and distribution of the drugs as required by law, shows the companies created an illicit market for highly addictive drugs that have ravaged tribal communities.”

Pala Band officials said they have “experienced direct effects from the opioid epidemic, including the health effects on its members and their families, increased instances of child welfare and foster care cases, homelessness, and crime. The tribe has undertaken various efforts to combat the epidemic, ranging from strategies to combat opioids falling into the hands of youth or those without prescriptions, and community education on opioid dangers and how to address them.”

According to the State of California Department of Public Health, in 2017, the rate of opioid deaths for Native people was higher than any other group: 15.71 per 100,000 -- 3 times the statewide rate. The same holds true in San Diego County where the Pala Band is located, where the rate for Native Americans is 39.52 per 100,000. The overdose rate for Native Americans nationally is 8.4 per 100,000 -- higher than any other group.

The lawsuit was filed with the intent to join ongoing cases consolidated in an Ohio federal court.

Citing 2017 data from California’s Department of Public Health, Pala Band officials said: “The rate of opioid deaths for Native people was higher than any other group: 15.71 per 100,000 -- 3 times the statewide rate. The same holds true in San Diego County where the Pala Band is located, where the rate for Native Americans is 39.52 per 100,000. The overdose rate for Native Americans nationally is 8.4 per 100,000 -- higher than any other group.”